More than 400,000 people in India have been evacuated as a massive cyclone sweeps through the Bay of Bengal towards the east coast.
Cyclone Phailin, categorised as “very severe” by weather forecasters, is hit Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states on Saturday evening.
The Meteorological Department has predicted the storm will bring winds up to 220 km/h (136mph).
A deadly super-cyclone in 1999 killed more than 10,000 people in Orissa, BBC reported.
UNB Reports: It was centred at 6pm on Saturday about 855 kms west-southwest of Chittagong port, 830 kms west-southwest of Cox’s Bazar port and 645 kms west-southwest of Mongla port.
The cyclonic storm started crossing Odisha coast of India, south of Puri near Gopalpur and may complete crossing the coast during next 3-4 hours, said the latest special weather bulletin of the Met Office.
Maximum sustained wind speed within 74 kms of the storm centre is about 200 kph rising to 220 kph in gusts/squalls. Sea will remain very rough. Under the peripheral influence of the very severe cyclonic storm, deep convection is taking place over the North Bay.
Gusty or squally wind may affect the North Bay, the coastal regions and the maritime ports of Bangladesh. The maritime ports of Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Mongla have been advised to keep hoisted local cautionary signal No-3.
Under the influence of very severe storm, the low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Barguna, Bhola, Patuakhali, Barisal, Pirojpur, Jhalakati, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira and their offshore islands and chars are likely to be inundated by wind-driven surge of 2-3 feet height above normal astronomical tide. All fishing boats and trawlers over the North Bay have been advised to remain in shelter until further notice.
The US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii is forecasting even stronger winds, predicting sustained speeds of up to 269 km/h (167 mph).
Homes at risk
Officials said Cyclone Phailin is expected to make landfall close to the city of Gopalpur (Orissa state), bringing a storm surge of at least 3m (10ft) that was likely to cause “extensive damage” to mud houses on the coast.
“No-one will be allowed to stay in mud and thatched houses in the coastal areas,” said Orissa’s Disaster Management Minister Surya Narayan Patra.
The army is on standby in the two states for emergency and relief operations. Officials said helicopters and food packages were ready to be dropped in the storm-affected areas.
Meanwhile, the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre predicted that Phailin could produce gusts of up to 315 km/h, while the London-based Tropical Storm Risk classified Phailin as a Category Five storm – the most powerful.
Fishermen have been asked not to venture out to sea.
Heavy rain and winds have already struck Orissa, where authorities have set up storm shelters for evacuees.
Janmejay Mohapatra, a resident of Orissa state capital Bhubaneswar, said it was too dangerous to go out now, as trees were down and debris was flying everywhere.
“Already the rain is very heavy and the wind is gusting at 100-120km an hour,” he told the BBC. “The phone lines are down where I am and we have no electricity.”
Minister Surya Narayan Patra said:”We are fighting against nature. We are better prepared this time, we learnt a lot from 1999.”
India’s eastern coast and Bangladesh are routinely hit by cyclonic storms between April and November which cause deaths and widespread damage to property.
In December 2011, Cyclone Thane hit the southern state of Tamil Nadu, killing dozens of people. – BBC News